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Deadly Dark Secrets!
Gravion Zwei—Esoteric Truths (Vol. 2) marks a change for this Gravion Zwei series. Oh, don't worry—it's still fully loaded with mecha battles and big-breasted women. The change is it trades in being a totally silly show for being a cartoon with more plot twists than Wild Things. It seems everyone in this batch of episodes has a secret, and they all get revealed the hard way, usually during a trippy battle sequence against an alien invader. Isn't that how secrets are usually unearthed?
It all starts off silly enough. The Gravion Gran Knights head off to investigate an amusement park, and have to ride roller coasters and go into haunted houses to make sure the place isn't a hotpot of Zeravire activity. Well, guess what? The amusement park is full of aliens, and soon the gang has to assemble Gravion to fight their way out of the park in one piece. A huge robot battle is underway, and we get the usual display of bombs bursting in air while the big-breasted women pilots scream battle cries over a happy inspirational Japanese pop song. Half way through the battle, Leele (the girl with a mysterious past and no memory) suddenly remembers she is actually an alien and somehow related to the enemy. The revelation sends shock waves through the team; their leader Sandman is reduced to hysterics. To make matters worse, soon Mizuki (the one with the biggest boobs) is missing. She has left a note saying, "It was fun, but I am a spy for the EFA and I'm helping the other team build a giant robot to save the Earth!" The team is in a tailspin, and soon find out even more shocking revelations about their leader, who is not that he seems, either. Who knew there was this much plot bubbling under all the shots of giant robots and gravity-defying breasts?
The tone shift in the series is a welcome change. The first volume of Gravion Zwei seemed awfully short on plot and long on fan service, with little else to recommend it. Gravion Zwei—Esoteric Truths (Vol. 2) kicks things up a notch, and adds some weight to the proceedings. The characters have some depth in this volume, and more seems to be placed on the line for the crew. Even the animation seems to have a darker edge, with more psychedelic sequences and a deeper color palette. True to dramatic tradition, this is the second chapter of the saga, and the equivalent of The Empire Strikes Back for the space opera.
My biggest problem with the show is that you almost need a summary card of all the characters to keep up with who is who. It doesn't help that in addition to our core group of pilots there are literally thousands of "maids" working in Sandman's castle. I have not seen the original Gravion series, so I don't know if it's easier for veterans of the show to follow or not. Thankfully the animators do try their best to give core characters a distinctive look so we can keep track. Still, it's a cast of thousands, so the revelations often lose their impact—I don't know any of the characters well enough to care if someone is an alien or a spy. Who will have to sacrifice themselves to save the team? Who is a friend and who is an enemy? These questions would resonate more if there were fewer people to keep track of.
In the first volume, the plot about the EFA project to build a new robot was given short shrift, which does not change in Gravion Zwei—Esoteric Truths (Vol. 2). From all the literature I've read, the main conflict in the show is the Gravion team's conflict with the competing government team. They don't flesh that out too well here; I guess that is all coming in future installments. Here the focus is on who and what the Zeravire are, and how they ended up targeting Earth. The other focus is setting up the characters and their main conflicts. It's all a bit too busy, but that seems to be the style of the show. It's the old "everything and the kitchen sink" approach to plot and style.
Gravion Zwei—Esoteric Truths (Vol. 2) reveals the show's animation is as busy as the plot, and it's not always clean or clear. There are some murky sequences where it's hard to tell what exactly is happening. The transfer is bright and chipper, and colors pop extremely well. ADV has done an admirable job with the visuals. The sound mix is aggressive and just as full. Typical of ADV discs, the English mix is a speaker-blowing surround mix with a lot of action, and the source Japanese track is a simple stereo mix. Extras on the disc consist of the usual art galleries and textless credit sequences. There are more interviews with the Houston-based ADR cast, but they have little to say about the show. In the first volume, they at least talked about their characters and what they thought of Gravion Zwei, but in this volume they are reduced to talking about how happy they are working for an anime distributor. One wonders if any of them wouldn't leap at the chance to make it big—when they say they hope to still be in a booth providing voices for big-breasted women and robots in five years it sounds a little disingenuous. It's a fun feature, but in the end it's not very enlightening. At least most of them are as cute as their anime counterparts.
ADV certainly provides a nice transfer and delivers a satisfying presentation for Gravion Zwei—Esoteric Truths (Vol. 2). You will like the show if you're looking for action and a lot of busy fan service scenes. It's certainly lively, and chock full of everything you could imagine coming out of an anime series. It's definitely worth a look for fans of the genre, but it seems almost too eager to please for me to see it as a classic of anime. But for those lonely Saturday nights when you find yourself wishing for chicks with triple-D-cups fighting aliens in a giant robot, it fits the bill nicely.
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